Xavier Cavazos


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In this On the Fly interview, experimental poet Xavier Cavazos discusses his work, including Diamond Grove Slave Tree, a work about George Washington Carver. Carver, the first African-American student to attend Iowa State University in 1891, was denied many of the standard necessities of student life, and Cavazos speaks of his efforts to incorporate that lack into his poetry.

The poet, who was in Iowa City for the 2015 Iowa City Book Festival, acknowledges that many readers struggle to engage with his work because of its experimental nature. “Most of what I try to do, 99 percent of the time it’s a failure,” he says, “but that’s okay, because if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be experimental.”

Cavazos discusses the importance of composing out loud. “The music always leads the form,” he says. He says of his mission as an artist, “I want to break the language. I want to break the system of language. So I want to suspend language. I want to chop it in half.” He also considers the importance of—even the primacy of—process for his work, and how that is related to notions of a spiritual dimension to writing.